Hibiscus Beats Chemo Drugs for Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Research shows that an extract from hibiscus flower can seriously fight breast cancer, even when combined with chemotherapy treatments.
The flower of hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.) is used to make Hibiscus tea, which is a common beverage in many parts of the world. We discussed how a variety of hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) helps reduce blood pressure and urinary tract infections in another article.
Hibiscus tea is made by boiling the flowers until the water turns red.
Breast cancer is the most deadly cancer for women. A quarter of all cancers are breast cancer, and 15 percent of all cancer deaths come from breast cancer. , and billions of woman contract breast cancer every year. One of the more dangerous forms of breast cancer is triple-negative breast cancer. This occurs when the cancer cells do not express hormone receptors such as estrogen or progesterone. This makes the cancer much harder to treat.
About 15 to 20 percent of breast cancer cases are considered triple-negative. With modern treatments, survival rates for triple-negative can be close to non-triple-negative forms of breast cancer.
But now we can introduce research showing that a natural treatment may be able to be added to triple-negative breast cancer.
Hibiscus fights triple-negative cancer
Researchers from Canada’s University of Windsor produced a hot water extract from hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus rosa-sinesis). They fed three types of cancer cells the extract:
– Triple negative breast cancer line MCF-7
– Triple negative breast cancer line MDA-MB-231
– Normal healthy cells
The researchers gave these cells the hibiscus extract alone, and then compared the results with chemotherapy agents taxol, cisplatin, and tamoxifen.
The researchers tested the cancer cells at 48 hours and 96 hours following application. They found the hibiscus extract alone significantly killed the two cancer cells, but did not harm the healthy cells. The killing of the cancer cells occurred on a dose-dependent basis. This is the gold standard for determining an anticancer drug.
As mentioned, the researchers compared the results with the chemotherapy drugs. They did not find the chemotherapy drugs significantly killed (apoptosis) the MCF cancer cells, and only the taxol significantly killed MDA cancer cells.
In other words, the hibiscus extract beat the chemotherapy drugs:
“Hibiscus extract was able to selectively induce apoptosis in both triple-negative and estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer cells in a dosage-dependent manner.”
As mentioned, only the taxol was able to kill cancer cells significantly, and that was on only one of the cells lines. Meanwhile the hibiscus significantly killed both cancer cell lines. This means that the hibiscus was superior to all three major chemotherapy drugs.
Hibiscus improves chemotherapy
The researchers also tested the hibiscus extract against the cancer cell lines together with a combination of the chemotherapy drugs.
The study found that the hibiscus improved – enhanced – the ability of the chemotherapy drugs in fighting the cancer cells:
“Most importantly, addition of hibiscus extract was found to enhance the induction of apoptosis of chemotherapy treatments (taxol and cisplatin) in triple-negative breast cancer cells when compared to treatment alone.”
Other studies have confirmed findings
This is not the first study to show that hibiscus can treat cancer. A 2015 study from Taiwan’s National Defense Medical Center studied Hibiscus syriacus extracts on human triple-negative breast cancer cells.
The researchers found that not only did the hibiscus induce the killing of the breast cancer cells. It also inhibited the migration of the cancer cells, and their viability. The hibiscus was able to activate the p53 pathway and induce the p21 pathway, which causes the cell cycle to arrest.
Hibiscus anticancer compounds
This last study found several compounds in the hibiscus effective against cancer cells. These included triterpenoids betulin and betulinic acid. They also found other triterpenoid compounds that inhibited the growth of the cancer cells.
Hibiscus contains a number of other medicinal compounds. These include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, flavonols, and other polyphenols. They also include hibiscic acid, and tartaric acid, oxalic acid, malic acid, citric acid and stearic acid. Many of these are antioxidant and anticancer as well.
Nguyen C, Baskaran K, Pupulin A, Ruvinov I, Zaitoon O, Grewal S, Scaria B, Mehaidli A, Vegh C, Pandey S. Hibiscus flower extract selectively induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells and positively interacts with common chemotherapeutics. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 May 6;19(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s12906-019-2505-9.
Hsu RJ, Hsu YC, Chen SP, Fu CL, Yu JC, Chang FW, Chen YH, Liu JM, Ho JY, Yu CP. The triterpenoids of Hibiscus syriacus induce apoptosis and inhibit cell migration in breast cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Mar 14;15:65. doi: 10.1186/s12906-015-0592-9.